A review of Abarat by Clive Barker

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Abarat by Clive Barker

So here you go, like I promised, a review of the first opus of the young adult series by horror novelist Clive Barker. You might know Clive Barker for his work in movies (hellraiser and candyman series), comics, or his famous Books of Blood collection. He usually writes horror novels and he’s pretty good at it. In 2002, he derived a little bit from his usual material to create a new book that would be for a young audience and the result became what is know today as the Abarat series, which is set to be a 5 books adventure. Three of them have already been published under the following titles: Abarat, Days of Magic, Nights of War and Absolute Midnight.

The series stars a young girls of 16 years of age named Candy Quackenbush, not the greatest character name in history but definitely one with flavor, who lives in a tiny little and boring town of the Minnesota called Chickentown. As you can guest, the town is known for it’s chicken industry and our main protagonist is bored to no end by it. One day, she receives an assignment by her teacher to do a story about their town. Candy, annoyed, try to find a different story to tell than the one everyone else is sure to do and that is, chicken industry. She ends up uncovering a dark secret of her town and doing her report on this, which her teacher absolutely detested. Following an argument with that same teacher, she flee the school, guided by a strange feeling and wandered outside the skirt of town where she find a strange lighthouse in the middle of an empty field. Strange is the word to describe the situation until she stumbled on an even stranger thing, a sort of man, called John Mischief. This encounter leads to a typical turn of events that send out heroine in a parallel world named the Abarat.

Extraordinary, the Abarat is a world consisting of twenty-five incredible islands, some crazier than others. In this world, Candy discover that a major shift in its history is happening and become entangled in a tricky situation when Christopher Carrion, the most dangerous and cruel man in the world, becomes obsessed with her. The story then becomes a game of hide-and-seek between her and the various minions of Carrion.

Now that we know a bit more about the series, let’s talk about the book itself. Clive Barker sure know how to tell a story, I find Abarat to be a very good paced and enjoyable story, filled with mystery and adventure. If you want to go on a big and exciting travel in a fantastic world this is the one book you should seek. Barker built a world so extreme and imaginative that you feel like you have to dive in. Quite frankly, I have never seen such a beautiful and evocative destination building in a book for young adults. You can almost feel the temperature see the sky and smell the odors that pertains the streets of the Abarat archipelago.

Every story has its downside and I have to say that this one is undoubtedly its main character, Candy Quackenbush. On the whole I have to say that she is the typical boring heroine you see in way to much books; too nice, too comprehensive, too emphatic, in short too perfect. There is nothing that annoys me more than a character without faults, who sympathize with everybody and understand everything. There is no challenge in that, in fact, she doesn’t even feel like entirely human. I’ve never met anybody so selfless and comprehensive, and it’s annoying to no end. One other thing you could say about her is that she find herself entirely comfortable in this incredible world and doesn’t even bother to show even the blink of an eye at the most extreme weirdness that Mr. Barker throw at her. She’s just like a fish in the water, and it feels a bit too easy for her. She’s even puzzled by it herself.

However, I can say this about the rest of the cast, they are very enjoyable, the bad guy is really evil, and his minions are vividly mean and cruel, but without loosing a sense of personality. Every single character seems to have its own singularities. But like Candy, there seem to be no middle ground in them, they are either black or white, no shades of grey in the world of Abarat, simply pure goodness or evilness and the infinite boring theme of the necessity of balance of good and evil in the world

Nevertheless, Clive Barker achieved a very nice story that is enjoyable and throws us in a vibrant world filled with mystery and magic. This kind-of-dark, fairy tale is beautifully illustrated by the author himself. The van goghesque illustrations help to become completely immersed in this incredible and bizarre universe and make us feel as if we are shadowing the characters of this story, making us not only silent observers like any books, but a part of the archipelago. As if we we’re walking the streets and fields of the islands ourselves. The brush strokes make us feel as if we are walking completely awake in a disturbing and fun dream, and you will want to go back to it as many times as possible.

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In the end, even though the main protagonist is a bit boring, the rest of the cast is brilliantly woven and the story move at a pace that everybody can find satisfying and it feels like we have entered a new kind of fairy tale that is refreshing and comforting, It is definitely a book you should read and I assure you, you will enjoy it, even if only for the great illustrations.

3.5/5

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